MEQUON – This would not have been newsworthy decades ago, when private medical practice was much more common.
Your doctor was with a group, maybe with some old pals from medical school. They paid the rent and handled their own billing. But this is 2023, when doctors are much more likely to be employees of a sprawling medical organization.
Cardiologist Joshua Liberman, formerly an employee of such organizations, has struck out on his own, with offices, equipment and a reception area, on Port Washington Road in Mequon. His mini-complex opened Jan. 17, 2023, with, in Liberman’s private office, a print featuring Maimonides’ Prayer for the Physician on the wall. Maimonides, also known as the Rambam, was a great Jewish philosopher of the Middle Ages.
Many in the medical community have impressed upon Liberman that they wish him well in this new, independent voyage, he said. Some of the reasons for that may be available for all to see. The New York Times and other media outlets have featured some of the frustrations of today’s medical workers, criticism of the national healthcare system, and disputes within that system.
Yet Liberman asked in an interview that the focus of this article stay positive.
“I love the idea of having a more direct communication with my patients, of having a smaller organization, so that if a patient calls, they can get me on the phone,” he said. “If a patient calls, they get one of my two employees on the phone, who have also been able to develop a relationship with them over time. They know that their daughter is getting married next month.”
The person answering the phone will know his practice intimately and what it can do, he said.
“I just think it’s a more welcoming environment. It’s much more conducive to helping people make the changes that they need to make to keep themselves healthier when they trust you, and they feel part of something,” said Liberman, who sees himself as a preventative cardiologist. He wants to prevent disease, not just react to it, he said.
“There is actually a whole line of thought within Jewish medical ethics and medical thought about the importance of prevention,” Liberman said.
Asked about Judaism and medicine, he referred to a line in the Torah where G-d indicates to Moses, if you follow my rules, you won’t see disease like the Egyptians. Liberman said Rashi, the revered medieval French rabbi, saw this as a call to do the right things and not get sick.
Liberman is a self-described “reader.” He was a philosophy and religion major in college, focused on Judaism. He spent six months in Jerusalem during college, at Hebrew University. He attends the Shul in Bayside. “I’ve always been intrigued by philosophy and religion,” he said.
He will see the patient
“It’ll be me seeing the patient, and not a nurse practitioner or a physician’s assistant, not to say anything bad about those professions,” he said. “I feel that I offer something special for patients.”
“When a patient gets their lab values, I’m going to be calling the patient. It’s not going to be a medical assistant or a nurse who’s not as educated about the ins and outs of that blood test. It’ll be me and I’ll be able to have a conversation with the patient. What I love about being a cardiologist is the individual one-on-one relationships with patients.”
Liberman said he is not operating a “concierge” practice, which typically charges a flat fee for exclusive access. He accepts insurance “just like anybody else,” he said.
Why has private practice become less common? It’s at least in part because federal reimbursement rules are kinder to hospitals than to private medical practices, he said. Changes in the rules years ago made it more lucrative, or more financially sustainable, to run a medical group as an extension of a hospital, he said.
He knows his new path is on challenging terrain. “But it’s my peace of mind,” he said. “I’m making a difference in people’s lives.”
He admits: “That may sound hokey.”
He said he’s accepting insurance that some others in medicine have advised him to avoid. He wants to be open to people.
Asked if his employees are ready to get on the phone with challenging insurance companies, he said his two employees are amazing.
“They are ready for battle.”
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About Dr. Joshua Liberman
- Preventative cardiologist
- Past president of the Wisconsin Chapter of the American College of Cardiology.
- Listed as a “Top Doc” by Milwaukee Magazine.
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Five simple rules to improve heart health
Avoid red meat
- Hamburgers, meatloaf, ground beef, steak
- Even “extra lean” forms
Avoid processed meat
- Bacon, sausage, brats, Polish, hot dogs, lunch meat
- Pork, bacon, ham, sausage
- Especially the “simple” carbs: rice, potatoes, pasta and bread
- Also pretzels, chips, crackers, cookies, muffins, etc.
- When you do eat carbs, aim for whole grain versions
Avoid restaurants or prepared foods
- When commercial kitchens prepare your food, it will be loaded with sugar, fat and salt
Source: Dr. Joshua Liberman